Foxconn could break ground on first Wisconsin facility this fall

Mega manufacturer looking at sites in Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee counties, could build at multiple locations

Terry Gou gestures to a demonstration of his company's technology.

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:12 pm

Foxconn Technology Group is planning to break ground on its first southeastern Wisconsin facility as early as this fall and eventually plans to locate assembly and manufacturing operations in multiple locations across the region, according to some area political and business leaders.

Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou gestures to a demonstration of his company’s technology Thursday at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

“This is a big project that is moving at a speed which we are not accustomed to,” said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “But one of the reasons we were successful in attracting them is the speed in which we responded. The plan is to break ground in fall.”

Foxconn has been in talks with land owners in multiple counties for several months, but a specific site has not been selected, Sheehy said.

“It doesn’t make sense to make a decision while still acquiring the land; that just drives up everyone’s speculation,” Sheehy said.

Sheehy said once an initial site is chosen, Foxconn will likely first build an assembly facility, and then build a manufacturing facility.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump and Foxconn founder and chairman Terry Gou announced the Taiwanese firm would invest $10 billion in Wisconsin to build a LCD screen manufacturing campus in the state. Gov. Scott Walker said the company planned to build a 20 million-square-foot complex. He said the Foxconn development will transform Wisconsin’s economy, making it a hub of high tech manufacturing. Supporters of the project anticipate it will attract other firms to be part of Foxconn’s supply chain.

“For 20 million square feet, you need at least a 1,200-acre parcel and they are going to have 150 suppliers following along,” Sheehy said. “This is going to have a big ripple effect bouncing off almost every border of the state.”

Gou and Walker signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday outlining the project and the incentive package of up to $3 billion that will be provided by the state. Part of that memorandum specifies the state is expected to work with local and regional economic development authorities to enter into land sale contracts for a minimum of 1,000 acres. The contracts would stipulate the purchase price and due diligence period and then be assigned to the company.

Commercial real estate sources have speculated the location of the Foxconn plant will likely be east of I-94 along Highway 11 in Racine County and along Highway KR in Kenosha County.

The land at Highway 11 is in the village of Mount Pleasant, bordering the village of Sturtevant. Boards from both municipalities met jointly in closed session in July to discuss a major economic development project.

But Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said representatives from Foxconn have also looked at land south of Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee County.

“They talked about doing an assembly plant distinct from a manufacturing plant,” Abele said. “At minimum, something is going to be in Milwaukee. But to me, anywhere in the state this happens, everyone is going to benefit.”

Senate Majority Leader Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said he hopes Foxconn moves forward with a decision to build in his Racine County district.

“It sounds like they will start with an initial campus and then they are looking to do things in other areas,” Vos said. “It could be Kenosha, it could be Waukesha, that is where all of the excitement is coming from. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I want Racine County. If they pick Kenosha, that would be a good second choice.”

Foxconn’s primary manufacturing plant is expected to be operational by 2020. It will initially employ 3,000 people with the potential to grow to 13,000. Walker said the positions would have an average salary of more than $53,000.

In addition to having to move fast, Sheehy said finding employees for Foxconn will require everyone in the region to step up their game.

“We’ve been losing population, but this is going to draw people here,” Sheehy said. “It’s going to stress us, but we have two responses: we can either pedal faster, or we can stop pedaling. And I think everyone wants to pedal faster.”

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